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frame: 460 x 380 x 65 mm
Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
After he was shot and critically injured in 1968, Warhol became even more obsessed with the theme of death than he had been previously. Following this, it was ten years before he returned to self-portraiture and when he did, the skull, a traditional symbol of mortality, featured heavily. The inclusion of a skull suggests he was working within the ‘memento mori’ tradition, which aims to remind us that we shall all die. This screenprinted painting is based on one of several photographs of Warhol posing with a skull on his shoulder or head. The blood-red background is broken up by violent, black brush-strokes which enclose the image. Warhol’s penetrative gaze and slightly open mouth are echoed in the skull, heightening the tension.